Family courts must take swift action to prevent parents alienating children from ex-partners

6 May 2020

The family courts must take swift action to prevent parents from using coronavirus to alienate children from their ex-partners.

Some parents are still claiming that allowing their child to travel out of the home would put their health at risk and are refusing to allow them to visit their other parent. This is despite Government issuing specific guidance stating that in cases “where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”

Alienation is a result of psychological manipulation by one parent, which can lead to unjustified hostility from the child towards the other parent. 

It is imperative that the Family courts take prompt and decisive action by bringing in to proceedings experts such as child psychiatrists and child psychologists to engage in video consultations with families to identify when one parent is attempting to alienate a child from their other parent.

The “lockdown” means that the Family Courts are working far slower than normal and some parents may be taking advantage of this slowdown.

The Family Courts can make emergency orders to ensure that children can see and spend time with the other parent and prevent an attempt at alienation. With social distancing restrictions, all parties can be called on to give video or audio evidence.

Research has shown that parental alienation can cause long-term damage to children, impacting not just their relationships with their parents, but also their ability to form healthy relationships in adulthood. It may also lead to low self-esteem and depression.

Graham Coy, Family Partner says: “Alienation can have a devastating impact on a child’s psychological and emotional development. The Courts should be doing everything in their power to ensure that it is detected before permanent damage is caused.”

“More capacity does need to be added to speed up online hearings.”

Parents who are separated should, where possible, come to practical arrangements. If distance is an issue, a solution could be to reduce the number of trips but increase their duration.

“It’s understandable that in these worrying times, parents are concerned about protecting their children. However, the situation must not be exploited by those seeking to deny parents rightful access to their child.”

If you are experiencing any issues related to the above, please get in touch using the below form for an initial, informal chat. Graham is also happy to have a chat by Zoom or video-conference if you would feel more comfortable discussing 'face-to-face'. Just let us know below.

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